Greta Thunberg: Rich countries failing 'moral test' on vaccine distribution

Swedish climate activist donates $120,000 to Covax vaccine-sharing initiative

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Environmental activist Greta Thunberg says it is completely unethical that wealthy countries are inoculating young people at the expense of vulnerable groups in poorer nations.

Speaking at a WHO conference on Monday, the Swedish teenager revealed her foundation has donated €100,000 ($120,000) to help end the issue of global vaccine inequality.

The money will go towards providing additional doses to the Covax global vaccine-sharing initiative and help to ensure health workers and vulnerable patients in low-income countries are protected from Covid-19.

"It is completely unethical that high-income countries are now vaccinating young and healthy people if that happens at the expense of people in risk groups and on the front lines in low and middle-income countries", she said.

"This is a moral test. We talked today about showing solidarity, and yet vaccine nationalism is what's running the vaccine distribution. It is only when it really comes down to it, that we show our true face."

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND - JANUARY 17: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks to participants at a climate change protest on January 17, 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland. The protest is taking place ahead of the upcoming annual gathering of world leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum. (Photo by Ronald Patrick/Getty Images)
Greta Thunberg's foundation has donated money to the Covax vaccine sharing initiative. Getty Images

“We have the tools we need to correct this great imbalance that exists around the world today in the fight against Covid-19, just as with the climate crisis. Those who are the most vulnerable need to be prioritised. Global problems require global solutions."

The WHO said the donation was made possible by the Greta Thunberg Foundation following its awards for tackling climate change.

It has previously demanded wealthier countries do more to address the unequal distribution of vaccines, with just one in 500 people from lower-income countries inoculated.

Ms Thunberg was speaking online at a press conference with WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Earlier this month, Ms Thunberg, 18, said she would not attend the Cop 26 UN climate conference in Scotland in November in protest over the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

“Greta Thunberg has inspired millions of people worldwide to take action to address the climate crisis, and her strong support of vaccine equality to fight the Covid-19 pandemic yet again demonstrates her commitment to making our world a healthier, safer and fairer place for all people,” said Dr Tedros. “I urge the global community to follow Greta’s example and do what they can, in support of Covax, to protect the world’s most vulnerable people from this pandemic.”

During the conference, Ms Thunberg also backed a WHO fund to combat the impact of Covid-19 on young people.

The initiative, named Global Youth Mobilisation, will bypass traditional funding to support grassroots movements and assist young people to overcome school closures, mental health issues and job losses caused by the pandemic.

The WHO says an initial $2 million of funding will be available in four tiers – from $500 through to $5,000 – with an ‘accelerator’ program to back promising solutions. More funding has been lined up over the coming months.

It is backed by the 'Big Six' global youth organisations, as well as Unicef, Usaid, Unfpa, the European Commission, Salesforce, Fifa and governments around the world.

Dr Tedros said: “The WHO is committed to ensuring the voice, energy and solutions offered by youth are at the centre of the world’s recovery from Covid-19.

"Our collaboration with the Big 6 and the United Nations Foundation will fuel wide-ranging actions led by young people to address the challenges their own communities face, and will also provide global platforms for their wisdom and ideas to be heard and acted on.”